THOUGHT PROVOKER 59
Last Updated August 07, 2003
To Provoke Thought Is The First Step To Beyond
"Forward!" I said. The traffic pattern had changed in the direction I needed to go. The handle of my dog guide's harness lurched forward as he stepped off the curb. "Good dog!" I am a full time college student and I was on my way to apply for a part-time job in a cookie shop down at the mall.
Reaching the far side of the street, the harness handle went up and I found the curb with my foot. "Right!" I said. My dog and I executed a perfectly coordinated turn, quickly getting back up to our normal walking speed. "Good dog!" I noted that some of the footfalls which had been behind me as we were crossing the street turned the same direction.
This job interview I had coming up had me doing a lot of thinking as I walked along. I was working out how to best phrase my previous work history, which had been pretty spotty, when--"OOPS!" I said. My dog had stopped in his tracks. Getting my mind reoriented to my surroundings, I heard a car moving close to my left, obviously coming out of a parking lot and heading out to the street. Good thing my dog wasn't daydreaming! "Good dog!” and once the car speeded away, again I said, "Forward!"
We came to the driveway I knew led to the mall entrance, so I said "Left! Good dog!" then followed up with, "Door!" Again I noted that people, two women I now guessed, were still behind me. They're pretty fast walkers to keep up with me, I thought to myself.
Inside it was nice and cool. I said, "Forward!" and when the hallway sounds opened up, I said, "Escalator!"
On the lower floor the delicious aroma of cookies baking smelled dead ahead. "Ahah," I joked to myself, "Just follow your human nose."
"Forward" I told my friend and four-legged assistive device. "Good dog!"
"Isn't that dog wonderful, helping that poor blind man." I heard one of the women gush to the other.
(Sigh) More of the clueless just when I need to get going. But then I hesitated. Should I go back and talk to these ladies?
**1. “I am a dog guide user and feel that when possible, we should attempt to clear up such misconceptions about dog guides and their owners. If we don't speak up concerning such matters, these and other negative perceptions will remain in our society.”
Christy Durham (Ocala, Florida USA)
**2. “Maybe I'm wrong in doing so, but I tend to ignore comments of that nature and keep on moving. If the comment is directed right to me I most definitely will try and explain to the person in a friendly manner their misconception and what the truth really is. After years of being out and about I must admit that overhearing such comments really makes me mad, but I've found it is best to just ignore them and pretend like I never even heard them. I do take any and every opportunity to explain about blindness when I am asked, because I look at it as my little part in helping to educate the public about blindness.”
**3. “"should we indeed?” I think within the context of the scenario, the man needs to pursue his interview. It seems some that may be at least as challenging if not an opportunity to educate the public about the normalcy of blind persons. What he might do on his way back from the interview, or the next time he encounters the pitying response is to maybe draw nearer to the folks. He might even try to introduce his dog guide . This might give him an opportunity to politely educate and inform curious minds. Generally I believe that it is important to take and sometimes make opportunities to educate and inform. On the way to an interview appointment is probably not the time, but there will be other times. And service animals are probably good vehicles for conversation since most folks like animals and are "amazed" at what the animal can do "for "the poor blind man". Of course, if one is to try to educate and inform in these situations, it is very important to not overact and become angry, bitter or exasperated with the audience. Most folks don't know and most don't mean to treat us as amazing or helpless, its just learned behavior. If we are going to educate, a friendly attitude and tone of voice can provide us with the best opportunity to teach and for society to learn. Getting angry and forthright, while in some extreme situations may be called for, but may only result in folks seeing us as bitter and angry as well as helpless. specifically, re the dog guide, I have found that so many people, even blind people have a general misunderstanding about the function. Many think that the dog and not the user give the commands and does the thinking. They believe that all one has to do is to grab the harness and the dog does the rest. I have often wondered if the import given to the dog guide has to do so somehow with an assumption of animal intelligence and common sense being above that of a blind person.”
Ed Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)
**4. “If you went out of your way to correct everyone who thought that, then you wouldn't get anywhere. I would correct and educate when it is immediate, that is to say, if you are walking with someone or you are at a stop when someone makes that comment. I wouldn't back track, unless I wasn't in a hurry.”
Tom Rash, Executive Director AUDIO VISION Radio reading service
**5. “Well, the first thing I thought about while reading this provoker was that I'd never have gotten a job with my first dog Harriet (a black lab) in a cookie shop. She'd just eat them all! I think I'd have one porky dog just after being there one day. My second dog though, is a golden retriever named Jarrod and he couldn't care less about food other than his own, so a job in a cookie shop would definitely be a possibility.
I think in this situation that I would keep on walking to the job interview. I am a very punctual person and if I really wanted the job I would see that getting to the interview at this stage was more important than talking to the ladies. I wouldn't just let it rest however. Perhaps I would write to the local newspaper to make people more aware about guide dogs, or I might simply put a sign outside the cookie shop that guide dogs are welcome. This, in itself, gets people to ask you questions. Even though you may never see the ladies again, you might still have a job because you turned up on time for
the interview and you would at least be making inroads into educating the rest of the public.”
Nicola Stowe (Australia)
**6. “NO don't go back to talk to the two ladies. They are Stupid. This is one reason I'm hesitant about ever getting a guide dog. When people see me out using a cane they say things like - "isn't it wonderful how he gets around."
The sad thing is the dog guide schools promote this myth in all there talk.”
Charlie Web ()
FROM ME: “Do the public, in general have a fascination in what the disabled can do; no matter how they/we do it,? Or what? why do you think?”
**7. “If I were in the exact situation, in order to respond to the people I would have to stop and talk, so I most likely not bother. You don't
have to respond to everybody all the time, and sometimes you just don't have the time to educate. If your dog's doing a good job, that's all that matters. Stopping to talk to strangers is the opportunity for the
dog to become distracted, near a food place? No way! I usually will
respond to a person if my dog is at rest and if I have time. Otherwise,
I don't make any effort to talk to people. Besides being like interrupting a conversation between the two, they weren't exactly talking to me anyway!”
Phyllis Stevens (Johnson City USA)
**8. “ My name is Rachel, and I'm from Tucson (soon to be Tempe), AZ. I would like to give my two cents worth.
While I am not a dog guide user as of yet, I feel that those of us who use canes have experienced some of the same things. As a cane user, I have encountered many instances where people thought I was amazing. I recently got back from training at the Colorado Center for the Blind. While there, I would go out around Denver. It's amazing how so much of the public thinks that blind people are incapable. For example, I was at a lighted intersection. For me,
street crossings are a bit challenging, so I usually wait a cycle or two to get oriented (as far as what street is what). One day I was doing this, and out of nowhere a lady came up. "Here, let me help you," she said. I thanked her, but told her I was fine. Then, the light changed but it was only the first cycle and I wanted to make sure I was lined up with the correct street. The woman said in a not too kind voice, "You can go!"
Now, my point of this is that if you need help by all means ask. But, if you are fine, do! it yourself. However, it is okay to ask for help at times. Even sighted folks ask for help.
I apologize for my rambling and this probably was off topic, but it did have to do with the general public. Let me reiterate something one of the staff members at the Colorado Center said. The general public is not only blind folks, but sighted folks as well. Those are my thoughts.”
Rachel Black (USA)
**9. “This one really makes me angry. It doesn't matter how adept and confidently we move about the community, we are still "poor blind people". It doesn't help to say stereotypes are impersonal, or the woman who made the "poor blind woman" remark is rude and inappropriate. . It just sucks!
Now I have some challenges besides blindness that make me less sure-footed, literally and figuratively. Now there's REALLY no way I can challenge the stereotype.
We all work very hard to learn how to move about independently and with dignity with our dogs. It feels like the sometimes rude and insensitive remarks from the public can take all of that away from us. And don't say they can't take our dignity away from us, or that dignity doesn't get you much anyway. When it happens to me, that's what it feels like. It just opens old wounds that never seem to get a chance to heal. Well, talking and writing about it does help.”
Abby (Culver City, California USA
FROM ME: “Okay, so this type of incident or problem can make a person angry, but there in lies yet another problem? Right? Or wrong? And if right, what do you do about it?”
**10. “my feeling is that when traveling it is imperative to keep concentration levels up. As demonstrated in the early part of the story when the guide dog handler was day dreaming and missed the sound clue of the car approaching from the left. As a guide dog owner my self I can equate this to my self as I often day dream when working with my dog. I feel that as a guide dog is a relatively new concept of mobility for the blind that the general public do need to be educated as much as possible about the work of the guide dog unit. However, there is a time and a place for such education and during a working walk is not. A guide dog user must not compromise their safety by allowing their dog to be distracted.
In my work place I stuck posters up which asked people not to pet or feed my guide dog. I was once told that every time you allow your dog to be petted when it is working you are positively reinforcing that this is acceptable for the dog to be distracted and the person to distract the dog.
Jayne Connor (High Harrington, Cumbria England)
**11. “Wow, I can really relate to this one.
I've heard those exact words lots of times. What I do, really depends on the timing, the location, and some other variables. Who I'm with can make a difference in how I respond. Weather they seem worth the effort or not comes into play too. Some people just don't get it.
If the time and place are right, I may engage them in conversation and tell them how it really is. Yes, this wonderful dog is helping me, but I'm not a "poor blind man," I'm just another person in the mall, on my way to an appointment, and if I don't get my dog back on track, I'm going to be late. While I'm doing this I am letting them know that I'm in charge, and I decide when and where we go. Very often, I'm not willing to spend the time to explain just how things work with a dog guide team. You almost need to change the image of the "poor blind man" and that takes time. They don't understand that our wonderful partners are a tool, and it takes a skilled handler of that tool to get the job done right. A lot of the people who say things like this think blindness is so bad and scary, that we need to let a dog make our decisions for us. These kinds of images are hard to change, and it takes time, lots of time. So, when I have the time, I do what I can to change that image, because every little bit helps.”
John Fleming (Southern Oregon and California USA)
FROM ME: “Choosing to respond to comments or questions such as what is presented in this PROVOKER or rather staying focused on what your business is for the moment, could this be seen as a control issue?”
**12. “<< But then I hesitated. Should I go back and talk to these ladies? >>
Not if you were late for your job interview/or beginning job (I forget which it was)!”
Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York USA)
**13. “Oh, man this is a hard one. On the one hand, I have an interview to get to and on the other, education is important. Usually I don't even hear comments from behind me as I wear hearing aids, but I don't mind educating people that genuinely are interested, for I figure that any education I give them can help the next person that comes along.
However, if I am in a hurry, I simply don't bother. Turning and biting
their heads off for being rude (talking loud enough for me to hear and not speaking to me directly is rude regardless of the circumstances) simply serves no purpose other then to leave a bad impression of not only me but all blind people with dogs in general. The concept of "poor little blind person" is not changed by rudeness or anger in return and if you are unable to take the time to try to change that erroneous concept, my choice is not to leave a negative or hostile one in its place. The next blind person encountered by that person will be the unwitting recipient of the
impression I leave.”
Debra Streeter (Victoria, Texas USA)
**14. “I would say yes. I would stop, introduce my dog, and then explain that the dog is a tool to help me get around and also explain how the relationship works. Their comments are made in ignorance, and I have a chance to make a difference.”
Reinhard Stedner (College Station, Texas USA)
**15. “I have been a dog handler for two years now, and at this point, I wouldn't go back and say anything. Here is why. First of all, they actually knew what the dog was doing, so um, that is great. Most of the general public do not recognize a dog. Second, he was on his way for an interview, something you don't want to be late for at all! And if talking to those women is going to make him late, it is most definitely not worth it! Third, and I don't know how long this person had his dog, but there are some times were it gets kind of old being the educator. There are a lot of incidences where I just leave
the situation and just let it sort out later. Just because they said, "poor blind man" isn't anything to be too worried about. I mean after all, most of the public think we don't have an idea about what we are doing. Education is a good thing, but should be done at an appropriate time. I usually educate
if people start to pet or offer food, or do other behaviors that are a bit more distracting to the dog. I also do education by giving talks at the local schools, and churches, which seems to spread like a disease among the populous, smile, or at least it has in my little town. But if they are just making a comment like that, I wouldn't consider it. he has more important things on his mind! And it sounds like he got an excellent guide dog there!”
Shelley L. Rhodes (Corry, Pennsylvania USA)
**16. “I have had several situations like the man in the story. I find that it helps clear up the confusion if the people are educated about blindness.”
Levi Campbell (Kearney, Nebraska USA)
**17. “No, I would not have gone back. I am a guide dog user myself. I believe in educating the public about what a guide dog is and does whenever I can. I am usually more than happy to answer people's questions when they approach Maggie and me. However, I am also aware of the fact that we educate people every day just by going about our business. People probably think all kinds of things when they see us. I am not responsible for what they think, whether
they verbalize it or not. I am responsible for living my life as an independent blind person. This is why I got a guide dog in the first place. We work as a team to get me where I need to be, whether that is a graduate class, choir practice at church, or whatever. I didn't get a dog just so I could go around and tell sighted people all about guide dogs and blind people. If I were on the way to an important meeting, such as a job interview, I would consider this my first priority. I would not want this situation to distract me from what I needed to do. Besides all that, I would be defensive at that point to address the situation appropriately. They had followed the guide dog team for quite a little while, and should have observed the team working together. It sounds like the dog is well trained, and the handler is using his skills as he was taught. They did not allow what they clearly saw to influence their perceptions because they already thought they knew how things were. Its not like this guy
was fumbling around or, as I've heard the comedian Chris Rock say, "having his blind ass dragged around by a dog." I would not let such ignorance change or affect my day in any way. Now, I also know some staunch cane users who think in terms of either/or dichotomies about dog or cane. These people will say that that's why people should not use dogs. I guarantee you that some of these people will respond to this story and say this guy should have been using a cane anyway because working with a guide dog makes them look more dependent, etc. I would submit first of all that these people are being just as ignorant as the women in this story. Secondly, it is very likely that if this guy had been using a cane, these women would have been overheard to say, "look at that pour blind guy banging
that stick into everything." So, those are my thoughts.”
Graduate Student in Counselor Education at the University of South Carolina Specializing in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy
FROM ME: “Question- Okay, so people will make comments. but, will those remarks be influenced by what the blind person is doing, how well they are doing it? And ultimately how much would the performance of the blind person make in this issue of comments by the public?”
**18. “Having had two guide dogs in the past, I learned very early that people make all kinds of inappropriate and uneducated comments. Whether I stop to educate them or not depends on the mood I am in. This person was obviously on the way to a job interview. I would think he should have taken care of his own concerns. Usually, a short conversation with people like that does
not change things.”
Sherri Brun (NFBtalk)
**19. “This was a good issue to discuss. I've been working with guide dogs, or should I say dog guides, for almost thirty years and have heard this kind of question many times. Each person deals with the situation in their own way, one that is comfortable to him/her. Some feel that making the public more
aware is their responsibility, while others feel that they should be left alone to live their life without interference from others.
We will always have some people who tend to watch what we do and there will always be those who have the wrong idea of our abilities or inabilities. Frankly, I appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to improve people's knowledge and , more importantly, their attitudes about disability-related issues. I personally
feel that one of my jobs is to educate, so things will be easier for others. Unless I'm in a hurry or busy with something else, I'm more than glad to stop and speak with interested or uninformed people. Not only am I educating others, but am also making contacts and, sometimes, friends. Of course, my business is to recruit volunteers and promote public/community relations, so I enjoy speaking with others.”
Doug Hall (Daytona Beach, Florida USA
**20. “I have been a Dog user for almost six years and I most definitely wouldn't go back and try to educate. There is a time and a place for it and I wouldn't want to sacrifice making a good first impression on a job interview just to attempt some education which may or may not sink in.
I have had much the same experiences as Rachel in response number 8. Before I got my dog, I was a strong cane user, I traveled independently in my home town and all over the country. I often had people trying to grab my cane when they thought I needed assistance crossing a street My favorite was when a so-called sighted do-gooder thought yanking my cane and saying that way was a good substitute for finger pointing. I heard plenty of sighted people tell me I was amazing for getting around as well as I did. I didn't
necessarily think of this as a complement. After all, is a sighted person amazing if they cross a busy street, catch a bus, go to the mall, pick up a few things and come back home? This type of sentiment is just as annoying as hearing "Oh look how that doggie helps that poor blind lady".
I do feel the ignorance displayed by the public is more obvious when using a dog. People automatically assume the dog knows when to cross a street ("They can tell when the light is green, right?"). On the other hand, I think people who see a blind person knocking into things with a cane assume the person is lost and must be in need of assistance, even though we all know this is not necessarily the case.
I don't think there is an ideal form of mobility aid which will magically
transform the public into well-informed sighted people ready to treat us as equals. It's not the tool, it's how we use it. I think it is an
unfortunate fact that the dog handler whose animal is poorly groomed and out of control will be remembered over the handler whose animal is under control and guiding effectively. Likewise, the blind cane handler who bangs into things with his cane is going to look unskilled to the untrained public while a cane user with a lighter touch will look smoother and may give the uneducated the false impression that they are the better traveler.
The best way to educate is one person at a time. Once people learn more about blindness, they will stop making false assumptions based on our mode of travel.
Lisa B. (St. Petersburg, Florida USA
FROM ME: “Let’s look at two of this ladies sentences. ‘...I don't think there is an ideal form of mobility aid which will magically transform the public into well-informed sighted people ready to treat us as equals. It's not the tool, it's how we use it...’ I like this statement, however does it cover all the issue or only half of it?”
**21. “"Should I go back and talk to these ladies?" Perhaps I should but the person in the story is on his way to a job interview and I believe in this situation that job interview should take precedence over education which could occur at a more opportune moment. Walking toward the smell of baking cookies I would definitely let the women who had been following me know that I was not unaware of their footsteps behind me nor of the comment which the thought provoker does not fully define as to loudness or normal voice tone.
"Gushing" is not a favorite voice quality but one to which I would want to respond in a matter-of-fact manner. I might turn around and say, "Ladies, you ain't seen nothin' yet but when I land this job for which I'm about to interview I'll be happy to explain the teamwork that goes on between my dog and me." Sound rude? Perhaps but it is my experience that many people feel that blind people have no appointments to keep, are deaf as well as visually-impaired and live off of the government. How do I, for example, know that my interviewers are not standing nearby or rushing through the
mall to prepare for my arrival at the interview? I have educated not just two people but window shoppers as well thus keeping to my schedule and speaking from 20 some years of experience as a professional and guide dog user. So I embellished the story a little. Just humor me.”
Jo Taliaferro (Grand Rapids, Michigan USA)
**22. “Charlie, what was the point of bashing dog guides? The Thought Provoker had nothing to do with the question of cane versus dog guide, merely how to respond to the questions of some ill-informed women. How we as blind individuals chose to travel is not the point but how or whether to respond to the public.
By your own response to the Thought Provoker, you are displaying your own ignorance of the use of dog guides. Every school I know of promotes good cane skills and in fact, that is a pre-requisite to get in to a school in the first place. For unless we know how to direct those dogs and interpret their response, they are no good to us. Just as your cane is of no use to you without the training you received.”
Debra Streeter (Victoria, Texas
FROM ME: “I don’t let responses get any stronger than this one; I have never had to sensor what people wrote into THOUGHT PROVOKER. Relating to the use of a cane and/or a dog There are two major camps, the cane user and dog users. There are strong feelings on both sides. This respondent points up some great facts and the tone of her response shows a lot about the depth of feeling.”
**23. “"I am currently a cane user, but I have been a guide dog user in the past, so I can identify with this story. I overheard people making similar comments behind my back as the character in this story heard. Whenever possible, I talked with the people who made such comments, in order to educate them to the fact that I was the one very much in control, and by no means a "poor blind person." Usually people were very interested and receptive to what I had to say. I think that we as blind people, (in this
case guide dog users), should take opportunities to educate the public when we can.
Of course in this case, there are some variables. If this person had plenty of time remaining before their interview, then they should talk to the women they overheard. If the person has to be at the interview very soon, then they will unfortunately have to let it rest. In my mind, it's not worth being late for a job interview."”
Alicia Richards (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)
**24. “I think people have set ideas as to how a blind person looks and acts too. The general public class us all together and their idea is one that portrays the message that blindness is the worse thing that could happen to anyone. They are sure that were they blind they could not do anything. I find that on days when I wear my dark glasses because the sun hurts my eyes and I get a headache, that people may talk about "that poor blind man" or "isn't that dog smart?" But on days I do not wear my dark glasses the comments run more like, "are you training that dog? Are you a blind dog trainer?"
Then comes the day like this morning and I know that people really are interested. Now there is one more couple, she with diabetes and failing eye sight, ones I met on my morning walk, who are not quite so worried about tomorrow but know there is hope and help. On days like this, being blind and walking a dog guide is worth it all. This is when training the public really helps the blind person too.
I think, like in this story, that the man needed to get to his appointment. It was better for him not to stop but there are other times when to take a few minutes to explain, will help change the public's eye about being blind. I have also found out that almost everyone thinks all guide dogs are "Seeing Eye Dogs.' Whenever I can I will tell them the difference and how often I
hear, "I never knew that! I thought they were all Seeing Eye dogs.”
Ernie Jones (Wala Wala, Washington USA)
FROM ME: “First, what about this notion that it depends upon what you look like will influence how the public will perceive you?
Second, ’Seeing Eye’ is the name of a school here in the USA for dog guides. So where a person in the public may use ‘seeing eye dog’ as a generalized name for a dog guide, a person with a dog guide and who knows that there are many schools here in the USA for dog guides, would see that name as referring to a dog from that school and wish to correct that misconception or usage. It is a case where a brand name has become the standard name for all members of that class of items. Like someone saying can I have a ‘Kleenex’ when they really just mean a tissue or someone saying ‘I’ll go Xerox a copy for you,’ when they just mean they are going to make a photo copy of a document for you.”
**25. “Poor blind thing" is still heard as we walk . However it is
also heard from my friends who operate wheel chairs .
Feel free to educate folks with a smile with something like, "
Blind I am and Poor I am not" and you have a nice day too."
One does not want to respond harshly to these folks who believe we as blind persons are the " Poor things ". One day
that same person might warn us of an oncoming dog.
Be happy to be out and about either using a cane or a dog
guide but always be prepared to educate and save the anger for
behind closed doors.”
Lee A. stone (Hudson, New York USA
**26. “Guide Dog Bowie He is my very first Fidelco German Shepherd, black. Well, during the summer time: As this year: hot and humid. There are days that Bowie is a little off. As his black fur attracts all that heat. So, we may get some comments on it. Then, there are days, that Bowie, thinks that he is a little smarter than, me.
When I am walking with my son, Norman. Bowie, may look over to see where Norman, is. Over all we work well as a team. I am very confident, in what my dog guide, can do. Along, being aware there
can be distractions for him, people wanting to pet/feed him, or a female, dog; in heat. So, that is why I stay on top of the obedience program with Bowie. Even to the point of extra commands, then what he came to me with.
I note all of this in the beginning. As I travel about 4 to 6 miles a day
with, Bowie. In all of that walking. It is not unusual for someone to make a comment some where's along the line. As we are out in the public and in public buildings. For the most part, if on the way to an appointment, I ignore the comments. So that I can get to the appointment on time. As my job is more important than the comment at the time. Yet, if I have the time, I'll, stop and
answer the questions. I also, do a lot of public speaking on behalf of the Fidelco Guiding Eyes and the International Lions. To which during this time. I have a sighted person with myself. To which, myself and Bowie learn the set up of the place we are speaking; with the help of my great friend, Cliff. Then when
it is time. We both explain the use of a guide dog or Dog guide. Depending on the group we are talking to. As using the term Visually challenged or Blind. As we go along, we answer all the questions. Then, I give a demonstration of what Bowie and I can do as a team. Then, cliff and I show the right things to do while around a working dog. When it is ok to pet and talk to the dog. Assisting a working dog and blind person across the road. Now, in this setting I have found there is a lot of people listening and
learning. Whether it is older or younger people we are talking, too!
So while out working and doing my thing. I do and work, just as everyone else does in this working world.
Whether you are using a cane or guide dog. We can walk with pride and feel that the tool we have chosen is working well for, us! It is not that one is better than the other. It is that what one is comfortable, with. Be proud of being blind and being proud of the cane and in this case the guide dog.”
Gene F. Stone (Portland, Maine USA)
**27. “I originally did not think that a sighted person should be writing in regarding this subject, because it is territory I've never explored before and so therefore, I'd have no opinion whatsoever. However, after reading the responses, I can see that there is room for my two cents worth after all.
From what I've read, it's a no-win situation for the blind person using either means of assistance. People traveling with canes have heard "Look at how well he gets around", thereby drawing attention to the fact that the person has some kind of strike against them that they've been able to overcome and deal with. People using dogs hear something similar, only the credit is given to the dog, not the individual, for the ability to cross streets, etc.
Some people have written in, wondering why comments like that are made, since no one compliments sighted people for being able to cross a busy street or catch a bus or go to the mall. That's because sighted people can't imagine doing any of those things if they were blind. The "public", as we've been
called in this forum, see blind people as very needy, because they do "need" some kind of assistive mobility device. We give the deaf credit for having their own "language" when we see them signing, even though it is not a language unto itself but rather an assistive device for conversing. We are amazed when we see someone in a wheelchair make their way through the city streets, weaving in and around the people and the traffic and we want to compliment
them on what an incredible job they're doing. If the name of someone extremely obese comes up, we're always quick to comment on what a pretty face she has or what a good personality he has. We are ignorant about what it's like to be in someone else's position, and think we'd never be able to cope with a disability or something that would make us different, so we try to put a positive spin on it. We try to find something nice to say, and so we think
we are complimenting you, the so-called "handicapped", by pointing out how amazing we think you are. Basically, it's false flattery, because we really don't think it's amazing to be blind, we think it would be horrible, and find it amazing that someone who is blind wants to be able to come and go like the rest of the world. Either our ignorance or our fear prompts us to try to applaud you, to make you feel better about yourselves, but as I read on I
realize that you don't want to be commended for your accomplishments of boarding a bus or finding the cookie shop in the mall. But look at it this way..............
If a person sees another person doing something good, something positive or something beyond the norm, they let them know with a nod of the head or a smile. I've given the old "thumb's-up" sign to people, who've appreciated my noticing and have responded with a smile, or a nod or even a wink. I can't do this
with a blind person. You would never know I was even looking at you, you'll never see the smile I want to give you. The only way to relate to you is to say something to you, and where else would one start a conversation than with a compliment to your ability. Not your disability, but your ability to do what you want to do despite your sizable lack of visual input. And, because it is such a scary, dark and frightening thing for sighted people to wrap their brains around, we are afraid of it. We don't know if you want to hear our compliments, and we are afraid that by speaking to you we may cause you to lose your concentration and become disoriented, so we speak to each other. We say to our companions what we really want to say to you, whether you want to hear it or not. Yes, it is ignorance on the part of the "public", but how else are we going to learn? When we see a blind person walking with a dog, as in this very story, we see the dog move ahead with a slight tug, and the blind person follows. The dog slows down so the blind person can feel
for the curb with his foot. The dog blocks the blind person from walking into a car that was coming out of a parking lot. Sorry, but the whole thing give the appearance that the dog is in charge, the dog is doing all the work and the thinking, too. We don't know any better. We've all heard stories of amazing "pets" and the outstanding things they do now and then, like the dog in the news a few years ago who managed to call 9-1-1 and saved his master's
life. This was not a guide dog, but we, the public, hear about these kinds of things all the time, so when we happen to see a "poor blind man" with his "seeing-eye dog", as they were called ever since I was a little kid, we assume that it's one of those wonder dogs and we think how lucky the blind guy is to have the animal leading him around. Again, we don't know any better, and there are not enough chances to learn about it, especially if we don't
know anyone who is blind. I think that if I had been one of those ladies in the story, I probably would have said something to compliment the guy, but
I would not have wanted to distract the dog so I would have spoken to my companion in the hope that the guy would hear. Again, since I wouldn't be able to use the facial expressions and hand motions that usually let someone know that I'm interested in or impressed by them, I would have to just blurt out something and hope for the best. Had the person continued walking, I would have assumed that they didn't care what I thought, and if he had come over
to set me straight, then I would have learned something.
To conclude, I would say that, from the point of view of an ignorant sighted person, if you have the time, you really should stop to let the "public" know that being extolled in that way bothers you, or that the flattery is not appreciated when it is directed at the dog, not the human being behind the dog. Don't take offense, though, when you are praised for crossing the street by yourself, or admired for tackling the mall without the benefit of sight.
We just want you to know that we are inspired by your spirit and are afraid that we ourselves could never do what you do. We don't even want to think of the possibility of such a devastating loss as that of our precious vision, so we prefer to admire you for your bravery and hope it never happens to us. Someone who was born blind might not understand this, but those who have lost their sight know how scary it is to think about.
One final tidbit: When my daughter was in second grade, the father of one of her classmates brought a "guide dog to be" to school one day. He was training the puppy, and wanted to educate the children. He taught them that when the dog was wearing a yellow "coat", that he was working and should not be petted
or fed or distracted in any way, and then, when he took the little coat off, the kids were allowed to approach and play with the dog. My daughter came home and told me all about the puppy, and how the puppy is going to grow up and have a job. She explained that the dog was going to "see" for people who couldn't, and went on to tell me how the dog would be able to find things for blind people and take them everywhere they needed to go. She was under the
impression that if a blind person lost their keys, they'd be able to simply instruct the dog to find them, and she thought that all the blind person had to do was give an address and the guide dog would take them there. I explained that it was a dog, an animal, not a cab driver, and that I was sure the blind person would be the one making the decisions, but at that age she did not understand. It would have been helpful if that puppy trainer had taken it a few steps further, and maybe my seven year old would have not only grasped the concept of working dogs, but could also have explained it to me. That
takes us back to the magic word ~~ "Education".”
K (Florida USA)
**28. “I have been a guide dog user for 20 years but still choose to use my cane often depending on the situation. I hear a lot of comments like the character did in the story and I think we have to assess each situation as it arises. In this case I would have continued to my interview. In many others I have taken time to educate and like some others responders have found a larger crowd listening at the end of my spiel than at the beginning. The public still seems
amazed that we blind people can carry on busy active lives as parents, professionals and people. I often hear at work Look at her she is amazing. I often respond "We all h have our challenges" IF I have time I offer to explain. If I am busy I leave it at that. Blind people need some privacy and time without feeling responsible for constantly educating the sighted. I should say I need time just out and about without the added time of educating some
Regards Lisa White (Rock, British Columbia Canada)
**29. “Misconceptions based on doubt or just plain ignorance is a constant companion for the disabled. We are not the only group who has to live with this treatment, so do women, the old, people of color in a non-color society and/or the other way around or any minority group who at sometime in the past was seen as less than the norm. This is just an example of human behavior, the limits of our understanding or maybe a sample of what a culture expects and teaches. Yes, trying to educate the person who doesn’t know is the ideal , though a daunting task. Thus because this sort of thing is to be expected to happen, learn to tolerate it and correct it as you can; always strive to better yourself and assist others to do the same.”
Charles M. (Washington USA)
**30. “Whether or not we like it, we are always teaching the public about our disability in each encounter. In the scenario described, I personally wouldn't have turned back to speak to the women. We do a better job of educating the public by just carrying on with our lives in a competent manner. I might have
raised my voice a little when giving commands and praise because as a long time handler, my instructions and praise are quiet murmurs and hand signals for the most part, to demonstrate that I am instructing my dog and not merely being towed along by him. But it is fairly obvious that the women were seeing only the blindness and not the interchange between dog and person. I am also careful to present a good appearance with attention to posture, attractive
clothing and cleanliness because I realize that although I can't see them, the sighted public will judge me on those things and stained clothes, dirty unkempt hair etc. add to the picture of a poor blind person. I will answer questions politely even when I am in a hurry, but like everyone else, I have places to go and tasks to accomplish and can't stop every few feet to explain myself to others who may or may not understand what I say. Hopefully, by
being myself and living my life I can teach by demonstration and of course I will answer even impolite questions with courtesy. One of the things I enjoy about being a dog guide handler is that if the public make me angry, frightened or uncomfortable with their comments, I can move quickly away and get on with living my life. Their misconceptions belong to them and needn't affect me or my identity as a member of the human race, a woman and a blind person.”
DeAnna Noriega (Colorado USA)
FROM ME: “Have you heard this phrase?- ‘Seeing is believing.’ How do you think it applies here?”
**31. “Interesting that the TP asks the reader to deal with two major issues. The first is educating the public or should I say dealing with ignorance and a form of belittling or under estimation. Second the question of what is more important, education of the public or getting a job.
If the blind man or woman gets the job in the cookie store, you might wonder what these two women might think if they came into the store and wanted a sweet snack. Might they think, ‘Oh, it’s that blind person. where is the dog? Oh, there might be dog hairs in the cookies!’”
Mike Peters (USA)
FROM ME: “I would like to think the two women would be impressed by seeing the blind clerk and learn to think more positively about blindness. What do you think?”
**32. “First off I am not a dog guide user. I use the white cane. When people comment that it is amazing that I get around so well I usually agree. I think if I stop and think about it is amazing with my limited O&M skills that I do get around the college campus quite well. I have attended three college campuses and at each one I did maybe average with getting around. I especially find the college I am currently attending challenging because of how spread out the buildings are. I don't make it a point to learn every building on campus just the ones I need to know. I don't think I would stop if I was in a hurry to a job interview. This just doesn't seem wise. I try and explain to people when they ask how I manage to get around so well how I learned the routes and remember them. Educating the public is important. Although the older I get the more I am
not apt to stop and educate people that make odd comments. If someone speaks outright to me using my name I respond.
Maybe this is off topic but why is the dog guide referred to that? I
thought it used to be guide dog.
Thanks for reading.
FROM ME: “I used ‘dog guide” and not guide dog because... ell, I’m told it is more correct to use ‘dog guide.’ So, instead of me explaining the why’s of it, you the reader think about it. Why ‘dog guide and not ‘guide dog?’”
**33. “Now, I don't want to rock the boat because I am new to the list and I don't know anything about the "thought provoker" other than this message and a very brief perusal of the site... but I find it very encouraging that there are so few people who have a "chip on their shoulder". It is wonderful that so many
people are confident within themselves (without their sight or with poor vision) and do not judge the rest of us too harshly! I hope that my nephew will grow up and have the attitude that so many people on your site display.
I am a completely robust and healthy person.. I have the constitution of an ox! But I too have had to learn the lesson of being complete within myself... I run a charity for children with DiGeorge syndrome... my first son was born with this condition and if you go to
and click on "Max and friends" then the page will open with Max's brief time with us.
I don't have a disability but I have been the person that other people dread having to speak to "oh no! it's her; the one with the dead baby... walk faster,
cross the road"... "well, it's probably for the best"... "these things happen"... "he'd have never have been any good anyway"... "well, what sort of quality
of life would the poor little mite have had"... "it must be a relief not having to go to the hospital anymore".. "oh, well at least you've got another one"... "he must have been a nisgel"... I think breaking point came when my father in law wanted to know how "two perfectly normal people could produce a Mongol"... and then within a couple of weeks (when I was 8 months pregnant) he enquired whether "this one's four beats to the bar, not like the other
one"..... at that time (looking back) I could have gone either way.. very bitter or taken a deep breath and looked the world in the eye.... (and then gone home to cry!!!)...
I had a conversation recently with a family who were very angry that their child was stared at in his wheelchair... "what are you looking at?" the Dad would ask... I have to say that I do look at children in wheelchairs because I wonder what Max would have looked like as he grew up, not because children in wheelchairs are freaks... but other people don't know what my life has brought for me... and it is easy to be angry, judgmental, intolerant...
When I talk about Max, people shrink and hide.. if I offer to show a photo they are sometimes horrified... and then they say "Oh!! He looks quite normal doesn't he?" and the little chip on my shoulder wants to say "Yes, he's a baby and look, only one head, quite amazing isn't it?"
I don't know whether I am expressing myself very well here and I probably am going round the Wrekin.. but I think that's it's really important for us all to accept our limitations (physical, emotional, intellectual.. whatever) and to value our abilities, and (crucially) to do the same for the people that we meet in the street...
So a person might look at me and make a judgment that I am staring at their child and be angry with me... also I meet people who make, what I feel, are totally insensitive and hurtful comments....
My nephew, Conor, has behavioral problems in addition to his RP and it is difficult for my sister sometimes not to lash out... we also have another nephew who is profoundly autistic.. comments like "that child needs a good smacked bottom" often follow Rupert around a supermarket!... his Mum has even thought
about making up business type cards with "I am not naughty; I'm autistic" and have the main features of autism on... so she could just dish those out rather than cope with the pursed lips of the WI contingent! (on a side note, "retarded" is very much frowned upon as being a negative phrase in the UK but is
totally okay in the US, so international differences matter too).
So should he have stopped and educated the ladies? ... yes, if he had the time, the patience, the courage, the humility, the wherewithal... and so on... and because he could have made a difference...... but what do I know?
..a Mum of one of my friends has a saying: "Life is hard; and then you die."
But perhaps we can party in between!!!
Julie Wootton (United Kingdom)
**34. “I usually talk to people if I hear them say something totally outrageous about my attitude or something else related to my travel. I use a cane, so the most popular comment is: Have you ever thought about getting a dog? or: I think you should get a dog. If I ever got one, it would probably make everybody so happy in town that I could never get anywhere I wanted to go because I'd have to stop to talk to everybody. This has it's fringe
benefits because I might make lots of friends while getting very late to appointments. Life has its tradeoffs, doesn't it. I nearly always stop to talk to kids who make really cute remarks about what I'm doing. Stopping and talking to them is extremely important because it teaches them to 1. talk to and feel open with us, and 2. It teaches them what a cane or a dog is for and how we use it. There might be a budding mobility teacher or a puppy raiser out there who got his first experience with a blind person while walking around am all.”
Leslie Miller (Blindfam)
**35. “This one has been around before. Reading it again reminded me of a few times when people asked me if I'd left my dog at home. I'm a cane user. I used to explain to them that I didn't have a guide dog and that most blind people use white canes not dogs. Now I just say "Yes I did". I'm 47 and don't have
time anymore for these clueless 20/20's. I've also had people ask me why I don't get a dog. I tell them because cats taste better (smile) <<< kidding”
Charlie Web, (Blindfam)
**36. “As a sighted spouse who has attempted to educate her fair share of the Great Clueless, I am sometimes appalled at the remarks people will make. And you can see the words hanging in the air that they don't say aloud: poor blind man. Some will come right out and remark how lucky it is that "poor people like you" (I love that one) have something to take care of you. One has to wonder what they might say to someone with Ushers, but as one person once said, "Who cares, can't hear them anyway!"
Some of the more determined Clueless insist on petting the dog, even after Bob or I ask them not to touch him. Some will rationalize, "I know I shouldn't, but. . . "
And then some - PRAISE THE LORD! - will get it and perhaps go on to educate others. And that's why we must keep on trying.”
**37. “When I was attending grad school at San Francisco State University, a friend who was in the MA O. and M. training program told me a story about what happened when he was walking under blindfold with his instructor. He said that an old lady approached his instructor and asked, "Would you like a muffin for your blind man?".
Andy Baracco" (ACB-L)
**38. “ If that story wasn't so sad it would be quite funny. Just goes to show you that we've got a long way to go...Sigh...”
FROM ME: “Is it possible to get a person, a society to accept that less is equal and/or acceptable? Like, you are blind, you have one less sensory modality, this handicaps you to some degree, and yet you wish me/us to see you as our equal? In fact, is this human behavior we are pushing against or is it cultural learning or both or what?”
**39. “I particularly found K's remarks insightful (response 27). It is very refreshing to hear from an educated and thoughtful sighted person. Thanks for your point of view.”
Sherri Brun (USA)
**39. “Guide Dog is the name of one dog guide school. Dog guide is the term to describe all dog guides, whether or not they come from Guide Dogs or some other dog guide school.”
Lauren Merryfield (Washington USA)
**40. “I'm sighted, and my only experience with blindness is related to a close relative of mine who went blind 8 months ago. I live in Colombia S.A. and my experience when traveling with my relative, is that for the public, a blind person become a curiosity, people in the street glance and made comments about the blind person and his guide to the point that make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe is fear and ignorance.
Here in my country there are no guide dogs, blind folks must use canes, but in the case of my friend learning to use a cane is been a torture, our rehab services for the blind are so poor.”
LUZ (Colombia S.A.)
**41. “If I may add just one other comment on this thought
First let me say thanks to K (response 27), in Florida for her comments as a sighted person . This tells me this great Forum is reaching out into many parts of our communities .
second, I really have to grin when I hear the word ignorance
because if folks do not ask questions how will they ever learn or
If I had not stopped and answered a question for a nice young
lady 27 years ago I would have not met my bride.
we, my wife and I are folks with a sense of humor and together
for 27 years have educated many, including ourselves .
One day at a time we can experience an opportunity to ‘ Reach
out and touch someone.’”
Lee A. stone (Hudson, New York USA)
**42. “It has been a while since I have put in my input to this list but I saw this and wanted to try to take a couple minutes to respond. I have heard
this comment before about oh that wonderful dog who helps that poor blind woman/man. As for the question should one say something? I think it all depends on the situation. If in this case the person had time to spare
before the interview to stop and say something then I would say yeah take a minute and let these ladies know that you are not a poor blind person and educate them regarding those with disabilities and service dogs/animals.
I guess what my thing is, is that there are many a blind people in the world who are out there doing things that some sighted individuals wouldn't even attempt to do. This is what I tell people. You know it's not like the dog reads our minds and knows where to go. We have to know exactly where we are going and we the blind individual has to give the directions.
If there is anyone out there that knows how hard to educate I would. I have to educate people every single day. I talk to people and educate people at least 10 times a day along with the presentations I do. Right now my last year of college I am living with two ladies that have no idea about dog guides or any disability for that matter. So what do I get to do I get
to educate. Yes I do get tired of educating but you know I guess I look at it this way, if I feel comfortable with the situation and can take that extra time to educate someone then that is one more person that knows and hopefully one more person that can help me educate. See I guess I feel that if all of us around the United States with dog guides would take that extra time to educate those around us then we would be helping each other and those who will later use a dog guide or other service animal. You know if
we could start in the elementary schools and each one of us with a dog guide or other service animal user would go out and take a class or grade of kids and start educating them then they would educate their friends and parents, we would have this world so educated that it might be a better place to live or at least a more knowledgeable world around us. What a good time to
promote diversity and not just racial, ethnic/cultural, and religious
diversity but diversity in the sense of disabled and non disabled.
Anyway sorry for the long post and the soap box but this is how I feel.
Jannel Morris Student Social Worker Missouri Western State College (St. Joseph, Missouri USA)
**43. “The letter from K (response 27) in Florida was interesting to me. This is a great letter from a sighted person and I see some good points. Maybe we should take many of these comments for compliments instead of put downs. My blindness has not been that long and I too might have done the same as other sighted had I
known any blind. We have to present a positive attitude to the sighted world. Every time we get upset or show our anger at someone's comments, we increase
the thought that all blind are moody and hard to get along with. I will say that there are some comments made that we must reply to, some even showing how upset the comment has made us. Some comments are thoughtless but I think most are made, like K said, letting the blind know they feel he/she is doing
great, knowing or at least feeling that they could not do this good if they were blind. I will often just ignore many comments but a lot has to do with the person's tone of voice. When I hear a positive tone I will usually smile and either wave or answer their comments.
I will add to K in Florida that one way to show us they think we are doing a good work is to just say "hello!" Often, I am just passed by by sighted walkers unless I first say hello to them. Again I think being passed by comes from the other not knowing what to say. No, we can't see a wave, or a nod of the
head or a thumbs up signal but most of us can hear a "good morning, hello" or simply "hi".
Thanks to K for writing in!”
Ernie (Washington USA)
FROM ME: “How many comments from the sighted to the blind do you think are meant to be positive in nature, verses negative? (I’m not sure this is a fair question, but think back and discuss the various types of comments that the blind can and do receive and analyze the circumstances that were in place when it happened. Then, what do you do with what you find? Well... So may be, here is one of my best questions for this PROVOKER- what would the ability to more accurately interpret these comments do for the blind person?)”
**44. “I think in a way everybody is right about what to do. I am not blind I am visually impaired but I do have a sis that uses a cane sometimes and I have seen people use guide dogs. I think if you are busy go on and if you have time then talk to the ladies.”
**45. “When I had a guide dog I tried, if at all possible, to always stop and do a bit of public relations work. We got a lot of that "Oh, look at that nice dog taking care of her like that!" and I would always tell them, "No, we're a team, like a flight crew. I'm the pilot and delsie is the navigator. I say when the plane takes off and where it goes, when it goes and where it lands. Delsie, under my command, gets us there safely, navigating the obstacles and walking the shortest, safest distance. I'm always in charge, but she is an advisor. We listen to each other." I think that the 'pilot -
navigator' explanation is the closest to accurate and it seems to be the most easily understood.”
Sylvia Stevens (USA)
**46. “I'm sighted and I agree with the sighted person who wrote that most people who make comments to blind people are ignorant. But, they are not evil or your enemy. I was a policeman for many years and the ones who are out to harm blind people are the enemy, and the ones who would never come to a blind person's aid in time of need, are the enemy. Most people are oblivious to everyone and don't comment on anything, those are the general public, but the ones who are making comments are the same ones who make unwanted comments about many things. She's too, tall, or what
does he see in her? We hear such things all the time and have learned to accept that some people are that way, but they are ignorant, not evil.
The blind and near blind need better public relations, some one to get
the message out. I suggest a national campaign, how it is funded is
beyond my knowledge, but this forum is a beginning. I've learned quite a bit from reading Thought Provoker and the responses from the members, and I pass on to my sighted friends the lessons I've learned, but there's a long way to go. It's a sad fact, but if the blind, and other handicapped people, are to go about in public, they are going to hear unwanted comments, and all I can say is, accept them and consider the source, or try to educate by saying how you feel about it.
Thanks for your opinions and an opportunity to express my own.”
Bill Heaney (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA)
**47. “you know, all of us have a responsibility to model good behavior and that includes being a competent blind person. My mother also taught me to think before I speak and to not consciously offend others by my questions or comments. I’ve also learned in life to tolerate others who are different, though not so different that they are dangerous to society.
I get comments about my blindness all the time and most are well meant. A few are correct in philosophy and are positive, many are off in understanding and are a backhanded type of compliment and a very few are mean and negative. I try to educate when I can and will even cross swards with an individual who is ignorant and having a tone of put-down in what they’ve said. But, mostly we just need to go on about our business and let live.”
Robby Robin (USA)
**48. "It is a definite misconception that sighted people have that the dog automatically leads the blind person. I had a dog for some time and learned through trial and error that if I didn't know where I was going, the dog would just go where it wanted to. And sighted people, not meaning to, don't always give clear directions or maybe I just never remembered them. The Seeing-eye dog is a great mobility tool but I am convinced that a blind person needs to know
where they're going in order to be a successful traveler."
Mary Jo Partyka
**59. When I first saw this thought-provoker almost a year ago on the ACB-L list, I was rather confused, as I thought, judging by the subject line, that it
was someone sending some Spam on new dog treats that just came out. So, I didn't bother reading it. Now that I have finally caught up with the thought-provokers
and have read this one closer, I see that this is something totally different from what I first thought .
Anyway, in response to this thought provoker, both when I had a guide-dog and traveled with a cane, I have had people ask me how I do what I do or make
comments on how amazing it is that I do what I do. In all cases, unless I have the time and someone actually approaches me directly with their questions
or comments, I just keep on walking. It's not that I don't want to answer questions or educate. It's that, more often than not, I had somewhere I had
to get to by a certain time. The few occasions I have had the opportunity to answer questions was either at bus stops or when my classmates and I are
supposed to be studying for an exam and we, somehow, get on a tangent . I have also had people intervene with concern to help me when I had my
guide-dog and when traveling with a cane. There were times when the help was warranted and I didn't know it, but there were other times when I was able
to navigate on my own. Yes, people intervening to help can be quite a distraction, but I always accept the help just in case there may have been an obstacle
I was unaware of.
I commend Resp. 27--Kay--for writing in her view as a sighted person. Though I'm blind, I agree with the fact that we as blind people need to see the
side of what sighted people see, think, and feel when they see us out there; not just focus on sighted people's comments and questions and how they affect
us negatively. There are still many people out here of different ages who still believe the long-held stereotypes about blind people--that they are incompetent,
need help by other people to get around or live and manage independently, etc. These stereotypes get passed down through generations, so when they see
us not conform to their notions of blind or disabled people, that's when they are amazed. With their amazement, they don't know how to react or what to
say at that moment. That's when comments, though offhanded as some of them may be, come out among themselves or directly to us. I sincerely don't believe
that their comments, questions, or offers to help us mean any harm or offense. It's their way of coping with their initial thoughts and feelings of ignorance,
awkwardness, amazement, having never had personal contact with a disabled person, or whatever. It's also their way of reaching out to us with the hopes
that we'll answer their long-awaiting questions but not knowing how to approach us *properly*. Not only does how we appear physically to sighted people
affect the general public's perceptions of us, but how we respond to people's comments, questions or offers of help also contributes to the general public's
perceptions. Sure, we can be dressed nicely, travel confidently and all that to show that we're not helpless or incompetent, but if we're rude to people
by snapping at them, then we give people the idea that blind people are arrogant, snobby, and never need help with anything. No, we cannot always stop
to educate at every moment even if some may see us as being rude because we have an appointment we have to get to and we're unable to stop to chat, but
if we're accepting of people's help even if we may not necessarily need it, and we educate without making sarcastic remarks on a general basis, then we're
completing the job of giving a good image. as one respondent said, "save the anger behind closed doors". In addition to how we appear physically, many
people are still unaware that ninety-five percent of blind people have some degree of light perception. So, they don't realize that some of us have to
wear dark sunglasses to prevent headaches from the lighting; not always for looks, as in Stevie Wonder's case. Again, we have to educate the public about
this the same way we answer questions about how we are able to function independently and the methods we use. The more we are out there and the more we
educate people, the more the general public will understand just from us talking to them and letting people observe us. This is where the saying "seeing
is believing" can apply. People who observe visually are more apt to believe the negative or positive about groups of people based on what they see.
I don't think that choosing when the right time to stop and educate vs. just walking on to wherever you're going is a control issue to be seen negatively.
There's always a time to educate and respond to people's comments somewhere along the way. It may not be at that moment, but the opportunity to educate
does come around. There are times when it isn't the right time--needing to get to an appointment on time, needing to finish crossing the street safely,
etc. You have to weigh what's more important in each given situation. When you have a job interview you have to get to within a few minutes, is getting
to that job interview on time more important or is stopping on the way to educate two women you overheard making a comment about you and your dog more
important? Is getting across the street safely more important or is stopping in the middle of the street to answer someone's question as to how you know
when to cross more important? In both cases, I would rather wait to educate when I don't have a job interview or other appointment to get to within a
few minutes, or when I have gotten to the other side of the street safely without getting myself run over or stopping traffic.
As for whether or not people's comments affect one's performance and whether or not there are other underlying issues that come up when comments or
questions arise, it really depends on the individual. You can allow people's *strange* comments and questions affect your performance or psyche, or you
can let those comments and questions slide off your shoulders as if they didn't mean anything to you or you didn't hear them. How you respond, though,
does translate into your actions--how you respond to people's questions and/or comments nonverbally or verbally. This, in turn, affects how the general
public reacts to you and other blind people they meet after you. If we continue to educate people and try to understand where people like Kay are coming
from, which is the general public, then we'll narrow the still-existing gap between the sighted and visually impaired and blind world. No, we may not
become viewed as equals in our lifetime, but it may happen someday. It is definitely quite possible for everyone from all walks of life and belonging
to different kinds of minority groups and subcultures to be equal. However, society has to want equality not just in words, but in carried out actions
as well. At the same time, everyone has to educate each other as well as understand other people's points of views and perceptions.
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